Brush Creek Ranch ~ Saratoga, WY

@2016 Susan EdelLet’s be honest, we’ve probably all done it at some point…dreamt about leaving the craziness behind and finding a remote cabin on acres of land ~ I think the Dixie Chicks said it best in their song Cowboy Take me Away , “Set me free oh I pray, closer to heaven above“. It’s an allure that’s all too tempting for many of us ~ we’re yearning to slow down and simplify our lives…even if only for a week or two.

@2016 Susan Edel

Welcome to the ranch-style vacation. You’ve probably heard the term glamping {glamourous camping}, dude ranch, guest ranch ~ all describing an adventure in which city-slickers may experience an idealized version of the Wild West lifestyle…in its most luxurious form. With each year, these ranch-style vacations are becoming more popular with all travel sectors as traveler’s these days are searching for authentic experiences that feed their souls and bring them back to the basics in life.

One such property that has risen to the top of this market since its inception in 2011 is Brush Creek Ranch {BCR} located in Saratoga, Wyoming. BCR currently {2016} sits in the #1 spot on Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice for the #1 Resort in the US and #2 Resort in the World. They also hold the Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice for #1 Spa in the USA, and most recently have been named the Top Destination Resort by USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Travel Awards. BCR is also an ORVIS Dual Endorsed Fly Fishing and Wingshooting lodge, as well as a member hotel of the prestigious Preferred Hotels & Resorts Legend Collection. Impressive.

BCR’s success is not too surprising given the fact that it is owned by Bruce White, Chairman and CEO of White Lodging, an independent hotel property ownership, development, and management company. White Lodging’s portfolio of hotels consists of premium-brand hotels mainly catering to business travelers, so the addition of BCR was a shift in the portfolio. However, an interesting fact is that when Mr. White originally purchased the 15,000-acre ranch, it was his intention to maintain it as a private property. It wasn’t until after renovating many of the original cabins {intended for family and friends}, that it became clear that this amazing property had to be shared with the public…our sincerest gratitude, Mr. White!

Getting There

I flew into the Laramie Regional Airport {the smallest airport I have ever been to and by far the easiest experience ~ I deboarded the plane, and picked up my suitcase and rental car in a five-minute time span}. The drive to BCR took approximately 1 hour on Route 130 and I drove through Medicine Bow National Forest which was a beautiful journey with all the wildflowers in bloom {in August}. This road does close during the winter months due to snow.

Property

With the purchase of an additional 15,000 acres {Sanger Ranch}, Brush Creek Ranch today is a 30,000-acre working cattle ranch situated in the Platte River Valley between the Sierra Madre Mountain Range and the stunning Medicine Bow National Forest.

Located separately over the 30,000 acres are three distinct all-inclusive, luxury lodging destinations ~ The Lodge and Spa at Brush Creek Ranch, {a family friendly resort}, The Magee Homestead {an exclusive adult-only resort}, and the French Creek Sportsman’s Club {a premier hunting and fishing resort}. On a philanthropic note, BCR also operates the Staddle Camp which is in partnership with the Big Shoulders Fund, a non-profit organization supporting Catholic schools in the neediest areas of inner-city Chicago; and the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts which is a residency program supporting artists in pursuit of creative enrichment.

All the properties are operated individually and, in general, do not co-mingle guests, staff or activities. The common features of the resorts are that all three are all-inclusive rates which include lodging, food, premium beverages, and a wide assortment of activities {some activities and spa services are an additional cost}. All properties offer luxurious rustic accommodations and a genuine Western experience and all operate on a seasonal basis from May through October.

On this visit, I had the distinct pleasure of staying at the exclusive Magee Homestead {pronounced Ma-gee, not Maggie}, and as such, my focus for this review will be on the Magee Homestead. However, I did receive a property tour of The Lodge at Brush Creek Ranch so I will share some information on the Lodge as well. I did not have the opportunity to see the French Creek Sportman’s Club, Staddle Camp or the BCR Foundation’s Artist Camp so I won’t be addressing those entities but do visit the BCR website to explore these options.

Magee Homestead

The Magee Homestead {MH} offers the ultimate luxury and privacy in guest ranch experiences. This private property consists of a lodge, nine historically restored cabins, a spa, fitness center and pool with private cabanas and an outdoor Pavillion for casual lunches and cocktails.

In the early 1900’s, the MH was a cow-camp and hay-producing ranch and the cabins were once used as housing for cowpokes. The original four cabins have been historically renovated log by log and the newer cabins were built to mimic the historic feel of the original cabins.

One of the main differences between the Magee Homestead and the Lodge at Brush Creek Ranch is that the MH is exclusive to adults and can only accommodate up to a total of 24 guests, whereas the Lodge accommodates families and up to 80 guests or groups up to 160. Children are welcome at the MH if a single group buys out all 9 cabins and has the property to themselves.

Check-In

The check-in process was as simple as being greeted by a friendly staff member and then ushered up the gravel path which led to my cabin. I was then informed that there are no cabin keys at the MH and any valuables I had could be locked in the room safe while I was away from the cabin {the cabin can be locked from the inside while occupied}. Then I was informed of the ranch rules which basically came down to “anything I wanted would be accommodated”. Finally, someone that gets me! With that, I heard the clinking of glasses and I was off to Happy Hour. The specialty drink that evening was a housemade Sangria that was absolutely delicious.

Cabins

Today, the historically renovated cabins are spaciously set apart, yet conveniently all located in a common area. The cabins offer either a serene creekside or a pastoral setting. The seven smaller cabins are one bedroom/one bath and all similar in size and luxurious, ranch chic decor ~ the Elk Hollow Cabin offers the addition of a fireplace. The individual standing cabins are the Burgess, Wood, Elk Hollow and Shellywood. Three cabins have attached walls and those are the Pearce, Downie, and Wiant. The remaining two individual cabins are the larger residence-style cabins ~ the Mellon Cabin is a two bedroom/two bath with a living room and bar, and the TZ Deluxe Cabin is a three bedroom/three bath with a living room and full kitchen. If you want a little more privacy, you may want to choose one of the individual cabins; however, the three connected cabins would be perfect for friends or family traveling together.

I stayed in the one bedroom/one bath, Burgess Cabin {one of the original four}, tastefully appointed with natural linen bedding and a stylish nailhead-headboard which beautifully contrasts the restored rich dark logs of the cabin. Accents in animal hide, leathers and distressed woods, give the cabin a cozy feel and a sophisticated luxury. A personal favorite of mine is the historic images hanging on the walls honoring the past history of this property.  Each morning when I woke up I would stare at the massive round log ceiling rafters that seemed to emit the strength of a bygone era. The bathroom is designed with gorgeous granite counters, a unique artisan wood framed mirror and a stacked stone shower. A pleasant surprise each morning was when I opened my door, there was a tray with pastries and fruit awaiting me. A pre-breakfast treat before heading to the Magee Lodge.

Dining

One of the great luxuries of staying at the MH is the dining experience. Unlike the Lodge where meals are scheduled on a more structured time frame, at the MH guests are basically able to dine at their leisure. I found that to be a luxurious convenience knowing that I wouldn’t have to plan my day around when meals would be served.

The main meals are served at the Magee Lodge offering both indoor and outdoor seating. A sophisticated dining room offers a warm and cozy atmosphere with its large stone fireplace adorned with a massive Bison’s head supervising all occurring activity. Chandeliers hang above the rich wood tables set with fresh flowers and sturdy leather chairs. Bottles of wine are stored in a case on the wall along with Western artwork. The room is so beautiful, I almost felt guilty for choosing to sit outside, but the weather was idyllic during my stay and I wanted to look out at the serene landscape. And I’m happy I did because one of my greatest pleasures was watching dozens of wild horses emerge onto the pasture to graze at sunset. It was such a beautiful sight to watch these regal animals roam the field, this was something I had never experienced before. It’s moments like this that create a special memory that you can’t put a price tag on.

The chef’s culinary creations are delicious and beautifully presented. Each evening, a three-course meal is offered and if you enjoy pairing your dinner with a fine wine, you will love BCR’s wine policy. This one’s a first for me, BCR has an “open door” policy where guests can help themselves to any of the wines located in the wine cellar…and we’re not talking about the two-buck-chuck varieties. We’re talking about a vast selection of vintages from all over the world. I was told that Bruce White takes great pride in his wines and many of the varieties are chosen by him personally. Even for an all-inclusive property, I found this to be quite a generous policy.

To add to the ambiance of each evening, cotton candy clouds would roll in and a striking sunset in rich hues of Amber, Mauve, and Crimson would form a blanket over the ridge. On one evening, a musical duet {Thunder and Rain} sang and played guitar throughout dinner. They were a natural fit for the ranch in their subtle country attire and their soft bluegrass sound.

After dinner, it’s time to settle into a timber chair by the fire pit with a nightcap in your hand to enjoy the evening sky sprinkled with twinkling stars. I had to smile when, on my first evening while sitting by the fire, I heard a staff member shout “We’re leaving now, we’ve left the key to the wine cellar out so help yourselves to anything you want.”  Huh? “Ok, thank you.” I shouted back still in a bit of disbelief. I felt so privileged ~ and had I not had so many of those Sangria’s earlier, I may have looked for a bottle of bubbly.

My favorite room at the MH is the great room at the lodge with its high beamed ceiling, large stone fireplace, cowhide leather sofas with fur throws, and rustic wooden floors and tables perfectly arranged for conversational interaction. A long bar table and stools occupy the opposite end of the room near the billiards table and a historic Western firearm display is showcased on the wall along with the available libations. The room feels so authentic that you almost think you’re about to hear a bar-room brawl.

Spa

After a day full of activities such as horseback riding, ATV’ing, skeet shooting or archery, you may want to consider finding your way to the spa. The wellness experience at MH includes an assortment of health and wellness offerings for total rejuvenation of the mind, body, and spirit.

The on-site spa facility includes treatment rooms, a grotto soaking pool, a hot tub, and sauna and steam rooms. The outdoor pool is just as relaxing with its cabanas and views of the homestead. This peaceful homestead setting also features many areas for meditation and reflection and offers Yoga and Meditation in the Yoga Yurt.

Activities

As peaceful and relaxing as the MH is, the abundance of activities and experiences that Brush Creek Ranch offers is what brings the Western experience full circle. With 30,000 acres as your playground and every activity at your fingertip {listed here}, you will be getting your adventure on! In general, you can schedule two activities in a day ~ one in the morning and one in the afternoon; and don’t be surprised if you find yourself doing something completely unexpected because that is the adventure of this experience.

All the activities are organized through the Outfitter’s Barn located at the Lodge. However, as a MH guest everything is arranged for you by the staff and you are picked up directly at the homestead and taken to whatever activity you have scheduled, or it may even be brought to you. Everything is custom arranged for you with your every convenience in mind. What I found intriguing as well, is that the MH guests are never intertwined with Lodge guests, even if they are participating in the same activity. This is BCR’s way to ensure that the MH guests always receive a personalized and private experience.

@2016 Susan Edel

During my stay, I signed up for the horseback riding and the horses were brought to me. MH has an expansive riding trail around the property so the Wranglers will bring the horses out in their trailers, along with all the necessary riding equipment, and set you up for the ride. Your riding experience is customized to your level of experience as well, so no worries that you’ll be going at a snail’s pace if you’re an experienced rider or bouncing off your horse if you’re not. Since I’m not a regular rider, I took the easy-paced scenic ride and found it extremely pleasurable. While on the trail, we spotted a coyote with his captured prey. You can also arrange for the Wranglers to take you on a”shedding” ride where you can search for antlers on the grounds to take home with you as a souvenir.

Another activity I signed up for was the Gun Range. This is a popular activity because it offers a wide variety of unique shooting opportunities and is led by world class shooting instructor Jon Kruger. Now, I have gone shooting a few times before but I certainly don’t do it often so I was excited to see if I could manage to hit a target or two.

Jon explained the safety practices of the sport and gave me the opportunity to hit a few targets with a Sako .308 caliber gun. Various metal plate targets are placed from between 50 to 1000 yards so I was told to start with the 300 yd. target…DING…great, move on the 600 yd. target…DING…try the 1000 yd. target ~ what? are you kidding, I could barely see the target even through the scope, not to mention the fact, that of the two men who went before me {whose names I will leave off-record for the purposes of their ego}, one missed it completely {several times} and the other took 3 tries. But Ok, I’ll try it…DING {well actually I couldn’t hear it because it was too far away but Jon, who was looking through a scope, starts laughing and informs me that I have not only hit the target on my first shot but that I have almost hit it dead center and that I am only the second person in the history of the gun range to do this on their first shot}. I will point out, that all the equipment that BCR owns for all its adventures are top-notch, first-class quality equipment which does help to enhance the experience.

@2016 Susan Edel

So why do I share this story? Well yes, to brag a little but the real reason is to point out that experiences like this are priceless. This is why people come here ~ to try new things, stretch their wings and come home with a story to tell. In the luxury travel market, this is called “bragging rights” {really} ~ when an experience is so special that a monetary value cannot be placed on it. The experiences here are not only memorable but are completely unique to what you would find anywhere else. In essence, this is an adult’s Disneyland.

@2016 Susan EdelAnd let’s talk about the staff…just like BCR buys the best equipment, BCR hires experienced personnel for their respective fields. For instance, the Wranglers on the property are real “horse people” and they not only work with the property guests but also actually work as ranch-hands. It’s the caliber of people that BCR hires that provides a quality experience for the guest.

I also have never met a group of people {the staff} who exude such warm and hospitable personalities. From my conversations with many of them, it is obvious that these people love what they do and many of them return each season year after year. It’s almost the feeling that each one of them is part owner of the property in the way they each take accountability for their positions. I so enjoyed getting to know them and I can honestly say that the warm and friendly staff here truly enhanced my stay. This spoke volumes to me and I was quite impressed by it. And, I have no idea how you teach someone Western charm but I adored the way the staff always answered me with a drawling “Yes maa’am,,,No maa’am” because it wasn’t that “old lady” ma’am, it was a charming “I’m showing you some cowboy respect” ma’am…and I ate it up.

The Lodge and Spa at Brush Creek Ranch

The Lodge and Spa at Brush Creek Ranch is the most active resort of the BCR properties. Due to the higher guest count and activity center, the Lodge is a much more active property than MH with a main lodge, saloon, activities center, spa, and a variety of accommodation options including thirteen spacious Trailhead Lodge Rooms, nine fully refurbished Cabin Suites, along with two and three-bedroom Log Cabin Residences.

The large 38,000 square foot Trailhead Lodge is the main hub of this property. The first time I walked into this room it was so warm and inviting it embraced me like a big hug. The Trailhead Lodge offers a gorgeous great room with stately antler chandeliers hanging from the 28-foot high ceiling that is supported by full round log rafters. The tables and furniture are arranged in a friendly manner for gathering together for meals or cozying up by one of the large fireplaces and enjoying the collective interaction which creates an extended family feeling. 

@2016 Susan Edel

Guest Rooms

The expansive Trailhead Lodge offers 13 lodge rooms which are located just off the great room. For a lack of a better description, these rooms are the size and feel of a hotel room and are designed in an inviting American West style. These rooms are located in the midst of all the lodge activity so keep that in mind if you are {or are not} looking for that location. For more privacy, you may want to consider the cabins or residences located throughout the property.

Dining

Three squares a day are included in your all-inclusive package. There are a variety of distinct indoor and outdoor dining experiences, including dining under the stars at the Creekside Dinner Camp, or experiencing true Western meals at the Chuckwagon. From casual campfire cookouts to formal multi-course feasts, there is a little something for everyone here. For between meals snacks, goodies such as snack bars, chips, fruit and beverages are left out and available throughout the day.

 

Located on the property is a fun Saloon that was originally another structure on the property and it was moved log by log to its current location and comes complete with swinging saloon doors so you can make an entrance in your best John Wayne swagger. The saloon is a bar and is used as a fun gathering spot, as well as for special events. Outfitted with a fireplace, billiards, piano, poker tables, jukebox, and a shuffleboard, you’ll be transported to the turn of the century for a true Western experience.

Spa

The Trailhead Spa is also located in the main lodge offering a full range of services in their beautifully designed spa or experience your treatment in one of the traditional outdoor teepees. The spa also offers relaxing saunas and steam rooms, an outdoor hot tub, and state-of-the-art fitness center for complete relaxation and wellness. 

Activities

Many would say the Outfitter’s Barn is the heartbeat of this resort. There are endless adventures to be had here and it all begins at the Outfitter’s Barn.

A small sampling of what you can expect here is:

  • Fly Fishing
  • Horseback Riding
  • Gun Club
  • Hiking/Biking
  • ATV
  • Spa Treatments
  • Yoga
  • Rope Course/Zip Line
  • Rock Wall
  • Archery
  • Lil’ Wranglers Program for the Tots

The Pups

I would be remiss if I did not mention the BCR mascots ~ the adorable dogs on the property. These dogs are as much a part of the property as any guest or staff {well, in my opinion anyway}. These adorable dogs hang out in front of the office as greeters {there are some working ranch dogs in the field as well}. Biggie {top right}, as dedicated as he is, followed Corinne White and I around the entire property while Corinne was giving me a tour ~ I’m sure he was just supervising to make sure that she covered everything with me. But Wally and Emmylou, the Bernese Mountain dogs, are usually the showstoppers. Wally {left} has quite the personality and is the attention seeker…and I was happy to oblige.

Summary 

I left Brush Creek Ranch feeling that this property is one that is run with sincerity and a commitment to making sure that the guests have a memorable and authentic experience. The personalized attention given to each guest is what creates such an enriching experience.

To quote author Noman Maclean from A River Runs Through It, “One of life’s quiet excitements is to stand somewhat apart from yourself and watch yourself softly becoming the author of something beautiful…”. This resonated with me during my stay here in those moments when I gazed at the expansive landscape and the beauty of its stillness, witnessed wild horses running out to pasture, and in the quiet moment where only the crackling of a fire is heard and the twinkling of stars are seen. The true luxury at Brush Creek Ranch is to have the opportunity to, for a short moment in time, step aside from the reality of your everyday life and take a moment to Stop. Breathe. Rejuvenate.

My only regret here is not having enough time to experience more of what BCR has to offer. Consider this one, a big check off my bucketlist…although, I don’t think I’ll actually place a check in the box just yet because this is one I would like to return to. Happy Trails!

photoicon

Brush Creek Ranch

66 Brush Creek Ranch Road 

Saratoga, WY 82331

Tel 307.327.5284 • Fax 307.327.5970

http://www.brushcreekranch.com

Comments

  1. the ranch looks wonderful and the perfect place for a ‘get away from it all.’

Share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: